In a democracy, it is vital that citizens be fully informed about what their elected and appointed officials are doing. Without that information, open and transparent government is undermined.
Last year the Indiana General Assembly removed the requirement that local government agencies publish their proposed budgets and proposed tax rates in newspapers as part of the notice of budget hearings. That change will become effective this year unless legislators reinstate the rule about publishing that information in print.
We urge lawmakers to take that step toward openness in government and help Hoosiers keep better track of what’s going on in local government and to keep tabs on government spending. Keeping public officials accountable is at the heart of the democratic process.
Posting this vital information online makes it available, yes. However, most people won’t take the time to track it down. For some, that’s difficult because of a lack of readily available Internet access.
In addition, electronic information can be altered or removed easily and quickly without users being aware of the alterations. The printed page won’t change. It would be easier for people to back issues of a newspaper to find previous entries than it would be to search a website.
We already know people read legal ads and support their publication in the newspaper. In a survey last year by American Opinion Research, 64 percent of Hoosiers said government bodies should be required to publish legal ads.
For the same reasons, we also oppose a proposal before this year’s legislative session to eliminate the publication of the tax sale list of properties.
The state legislature has a chance to correct this. We call on lawmakers to reinstate the traditional requirement of proposed budget and tax rate publication in local newspapers and make a strong statement about open government.
To be effective, citizens in a democracy need to be well-informed about government budgets and actions.
Allowing legal notices to be published only online undermines the public’s ability to stay informed.